Today was the last day of class and we celebrated with breakfast at my house. I started hosting the class my first year of teaching 11 years ago, so it seems fitting to bring back the tradition in my last semester. Of course, it’s convenient that I live less than a block from the school and everyone can walk down the winding road to pass through the iron school gates and into the wooden gate at my home. Some years we have had tea together, sometimes lunch or brunch depending on the daily schedule.
The girls were finally able to view the DVD slide show I made of the photos and newsclippings. It came out great, but wouldn’t play on the school Mac computers (must be something to do with being compiled and burned on my PC at home). Everyone crowded into the TV room and watched Arline and Mercy come to life on the big screen. I added a soundtrack of rather plaintive music, and caught several sighs and exclamations. They were excited to put the faces to the names on the letters they had read. Over and over I heard them remark on Arline’s beauty; of course, they loved her clothes too. I think their favorite photograph is the one where Arline stands against the light on the porch of the ranch house in Beulah, Colorado. She is wearing a long loose dress and what looks like an embroidered dressing gown. Her hair hangs in a long braid. It is a lovely photograph, part of the Beulah series featuring Arline and Lucile in several shots.
Before the girls returned to school I was able to read them a letter that my mother wrote when she heard about our project. She shared a few memories of Arline and wrote,
I am so pleased that Denise has shared her Grandmother’s letters with you. I believe she wanted women to know what it was like for a young woman in the early 1900’s. It is remarkable to think some of you are holding paper and reading words that were written so many years ago. . . Enjoy the letters and look for the messages my mother was hiding in each one. We can be thankful for our rights as women. We can do any job we want to and develop our skills and interests without discrimination.
None my students wanted to trade places with Arline. Their own lives seemed complicated enough. . . they just shook their heads at the notion of living in the early 20th century.